Maurice Jones-Drew has returned from his holdout and will suit up for the Jaguars this week, but anyone expecting him to be worth a fantasy start is going to be severely disappointed. According to Head Coach Mike Mularkey, Rashad Jennings, who was named the week 1 starter before MJD returned, will handle most of the early down work, limiting Maurice Jones-Drew to 3rd down work.
When asked about whether Jennings would carry the load or not, Mularkey said, “That’s kind of the way the system works, yes,” referring to having the starter do most of the early down work and having his primary backup handle 3rd downs. It’s how he handled things in Pittsburgh and Atlanta and it’s how he’ll handle things in Jacksonville. Once MJD regains his starting job, he’ll be the beneficiary of the system and handle most of the early down work, but until then, he’ll see very few carries and it’ll limit his fantasy potential severely against a Minnesota run defense that ranked 6th in the league last year.
This is probably the smart move because Jennings showed himself to be a solid back during the preseason and MJD’s situation has so many similarities to Chris Johnson’s last year, down to when they reported, the situation with new coaching staffs coming in, and their usage in the past 3 years, that I would be skeptical about his ability to carry the load early in the season. Chris Johnson averaged 3.0 YPC last season in the first 8 games, before showing his old form and averaging 4.8 YPC in the final 8.
Nonetheless, the Jaguars will be hurt offensively be the lack of the 2011 form of MJD early in the season. Jennings is a nice back and MJD at less than 100% is not too bad, but MJD had 47.7% of the team’s yards from scrimmage last season, most by any non-quarterback since OJ Simpson in 1974. Any improvements Blaine Gabbert and the passing game made this offseason should be nullified by their relative “struggles” on the ground.